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Mark your calendars, because today is National Hug Day! A hug may seem like a simple gesture, but there is much more to it than you might think. A hug can offer more than a friendly squeeze. There are health benefits for both the hugger and the hugged.

hugging

Let’s think about a good, solid hug for a moment. You have your arms around one another, two hearts pressing together, heads on one another’s shoulder, a moment frozen in time. It makes you feel good just thinking about it, doesn’t it? Respected family therapist, Virginia Satir, said that we need four hugs per day for survival, eight hugs per day for maintenance and 12 hugs per day for growth. Here are a few reasons why.

A hug makes you happy: Actual hormones are released when you hug! Production of oxytocin, known as the “cuddle hormone,” serotonin and dopamine are increased when we embrace. This can lift your mood, trigger caring and bonding reflexes, and make you calmer and less anxious. Even when you are hugging goodbye, you still feel a bit better after a hug.

A hug builds self esteem: Babies and small children cling to their mothers and fathers for constant reaffirmation of love. Well-hugged babies are less-stressed adults. As we grow older, the physical touch generally becomes less and less. Hugs connect us with our own ability to love ourselves because of a feeling of acceptance, trust and safety. Loneliness increases as we age, and the physical contact of hugs helps adults cope with that emotion. You can strengthen a relationship with a hug, encouraging empathy and understanding.

mother daughter hugging

A hug keeps you healthy: Studies have shown that a hug can help lower blood pressure and the production of cortisol, known as the stress hormone. Elevated stress can lead to emotional over-eating, and cortisol can slow down your metabolism. So, a hug can actually help keep off extra belly fat, yay! The skin-to-skin contact of a hug balances the nervous system. Gentle pressure on the solar plexus activates an emotional charge in the solar plexus chakra, stimulating the thymus gland, which produces white blood cells. This means a hug strengthens your immune system too!

All these reasons, together with the warm, fuzzy feeling you get from a good squeeze, seems like enough reason to get out and give away free hugs all day and every day! Happy National Hug Day!